In a first, the Islamic State (IS) has released a video featuring Indian jihadis, including a Thane engineering student, Fahad Tanvir Sheikh, who vowed to avenge the Babri Masjid demolition and purported killing of Muslims across India.
“We will return, but with a sword in hand, to slice your throats, to avenge the Babri Masjid, and the killings of Muslims in Kashmir, in Gujarat, and in Muzaffarnagar,” the Indian Express quoted Sheikh as saying in the video.
“Muslims are not safe in India. New restrictions are being imposed and our freedom is being taken away.”
Sheikh is the only individual who has been positively identified. Reports state that the other members in the video could be former Indian Mujahideen members.
“After the Batla House encounter, things became very hard for us. The ATS, police and investigative agencies were after us. We somehow fled India, worked with the Mujahideen and reached Khorasan region,” he further said.
Four youths from Mumbai’s Kalyan – Aarif Majid, Amaan Tandel, Saheem Tanki and Fahad Tanvir Sheikh – had fled to Iraq in May 2014 to join the militant group.
Of them, Majid is being held by the National Investigative Agency. He was apprehended when he returned from Syria. Tanki is believed to have been killed in a bomb attack in Raqqa last year, as claimed by Sheikh in the video.
“We will avenge every atrocity committed against Muslims. Have you forgotten Bombay train serial blasts, have you forgotten Gujarat, have you forgotten Delhi? We will avenge everything,” said one of the other jihadis in the video.
Videos, purportedly released by the IS, have surfaced time again. While in some instances they have threatened the US and UK, in several other instances, they filmed beheading hostages. However, this is the first video that specifically addresses India or South Asia.
The men urged Muslims in India, Pakistan and Afghanistan to join their movement to establish an Islamic caliphate in the region.
The video claimed that ‘cow-worshipping’ Hindus are responsible for violence against Muslims in many places, including Mumbai, Gujarat, Assam and Moradabad.
“It is strictly prohibited to worship anyone except Allah. These Kafirs worship cow, sun and moon. There is strict prohibition to maintain ties with those who are against Allah,” said another jihadi.
Speaking in English, one of the men also warned Indians to either accept Islam or pay Jiziya (a medieval tax for non-believers of Islam) or “be prepared to be slaughtered”.
The video also criticised Indian Muslims for maintaining trade and social relations with “infidels” and Muslim politicians and clerics for compromising with a system that they claim massacred Muslims.
Reports emerging from Raqqa and other IS-held regions in Syria have indicated a possible crisis of loyalty, fuelled by diminishing funds and resources. Operation Tidal Wave III, led by the US from October last year till early this year, targeted the group’s revenue pools, including oil and supply lines. According to an independent report, IS fighters were allegedly asked to take a 50% pay-cut to tide over the situation.
However, the militant group has managed to attract recruits to its fold. In India though, there have been few reports of young men attempting to travel to Syria to join IS.